Islam -- The Straight Path: Islam Interpreted by Muslims
by Kenneth W. Morgan


The faith of Islam, and the consequences of that faith, are described in this book by devout Muslim scholars. This is not a comparative study, nor an attempt to defend Islam against what Muslims consider to be Western misunderstandings of their religion; it is simply a concise presentation of the history and spread of Islam and of the beliefs and obligations of Muslims as interpreted by outstanding Muslim scholars of our time.

The method used in the writing of this book is the same as that used in the preparation of the two previous volumes -- The Religion of the Hindus and The Path of the Buddha -- which I have edited in an attempt to present to Western readers the major religions of the world from the point of view of the followers of those faiths. First, an outline was prepared for a book designed to present Islam to Western readers. Then that outline was checked with Muslim scholars in Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, and with refugee scholars from China, by asking them whether a book written to that outline would give a fair and representative picture of Islam, and who, in their opinion, would be the best writer for each chapter. In the light of their suggestions the outline was extensively modified and the men most highly recommended and most frequently mentioned by their fellow Muslims were asked to write. They recognized that they were not writing independent essays but were creating sections of a carefully planned volume and were aware that their fellow Muslims looked over their shoulders as they Wrote.

The eleven able scholars, recommended by their fellow Muslims to speak for the contemporary Muslim world, have given generously of their time and counsel in the creation of this book. Shaikh Mohammad Abd Allah Draz is a Member of the Body of the Grand Ulama, and Professor of Interpretation of the Qur’an at Al Azhar University in Cairo. Shaikh Draz, who received his doctorate at the Sorbonne, is recognized as one of the leading authorities in the Muslim world on the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet.

Dr. Shafik Ghorbal, who has now retired from university teaching and from government service, is the head of the Institute of Higher Arabic Studies of the Arab League, in Cairo. His work as a teacher and writer of history and as an administrator in the Ministry of Education of the Government of Egypt has made him one of the most highly honored scholars of Egypt today.

Shaikh Mahmud Shaltout is a Member of the Body of the Grand Ulama and Professor of Comparative Law at Al Azhar University. He is famous in the Arab world for his radio broadcasts on Islam and for his fearless and outspoken interpretations of Islamic law.

Professor A. E. Affifi, Professor of Islamic Philosophy at the University of Alexandria, is recognized as one of Egypt’s leading scholars and a specialist in the Muslim rationalists and mystics.

Professor Mahmood Shehabi, Professor of Jurisprudence in the Faculty of Law and Professor of Eastern Philosophy in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Tehran, is recognized among the Shi‘as as qualified to speak for them because of his great learning and his deep devotion to the faith.

Dr. Ishak Musa Husaini is Professor of Arabic Literature both at the Institute of Higher Arabic Studies of the Arab League and at the American University at Cairo. He comes from an old Palestinian family which has long been known for its scholarly leadership in Islam; until recently he was a teacher at the American University at Beirut. Muslims from several Arab countries recommended him as one of the scholars ably qualified to speak for the Arab Muslims.

Hasan Basri Çantay of Istanbul is a retired scholar who has recently translated the Qur’an into Turkish. Even in his retirement many people come to him for instruction and guidance in Islam, for he is highly regarded as a learned and devout Muslim who is representative of the best in Islam in Turkey today.

Mazheruddin Siddiqi, who, like Dr. Husaini, has studied at McGill University in Montreal, is Reader and Head of the Department of Muslim History at the University of Sind, Hyderabad, Pakistan. As editor of the monthly journal Islamic Literature, and a contributor to other Islamic publications in Pakistan, he has become widely known as one of the leaders in Muslim thought in his country.

Dawood C. M. Ting, at present a member of the Consulate of the Republic of China at Beirut, was a leader of the Muslim community in China before moving to Taiwan. He has studied at Al Azhar in Cairo, has served on several diplomatic missions for the Republic of China, and is one of the chief spokesmen for the Chinese Muslims.

Dr. P. A. Djajadiningrat is Professor of Islam on the Faculty of Literature at the University of Indonesia. He was formerly Professor of Islamic Law in the High School of Law at Djakarta, a Member of the Council of Netherlands India, Director of the Department of Education of Indonesia, and Secretary of State for Education in Indonesia. He is the senior Muslim scholar of Indonesia, highly respected and honored by his countrymen.

Dr. Mohammad Rasjidi is the Indonesian Ambassador to Pakistan and one of Indonesia’s leading Muslim scholars. He has studied at Al Azhar in Cairo and received his doctorate from the Sorbonne. He served on diplomatic missions in Egypt and Iran before going to Pakistan and has traveled widely throughout the Muslim world. Few Muslims can equal Hadji Rasjidi’s first-hand knowledge of Muslim culture in both the Far East and the Middle East.

Each of these men has generously undertaken the writing of his chapter in addition to the heavy obligations of his regular work. Not only have they faced the difficulties of language, but they have all been required to cover in a few pages material which could scarcely be covered adequately in a whole book, and to fit that material into a common outline. Their competence, patience, and diligence have amply justified the confidence of their fellow Muslims who recommended them so highly. The unity of Muslims throughout the world is clearly shown in the chapters they have written. Where there are differences on minor points, they should be recognized as inevitable minor variations which have developed through the centuries in a religion which has found its home from Morocco to Indonesia and China.

The eleven chapters of this book were written in seven different languages: Two, Four, Eight, and Eleven in English; One in French; Three and Six in Arabic; Five in Persian; Seven in Turkish; Nine in Chinese; and Ten in Dutch. After they were all available in English they were carefully checked with each writer to make sure that there were no misunderstandings; then they were extensively edited so the book would read as a unified whole and be clear to Western readers. After the editing, each writer approved his chapter as it appears in the book.

For the sake of simplicity the generally accepted Arabic spelling of names and technical terms has been followed, although in a few cases it seemed to do less violence to follow a form which has gained wide acceptance in a particular Muslim country. When a new word is introduced for the first time it is italicized and defined but after that it is used as if it were a part of the vocabulary of the reader. Definitions may be found either in the glossary or through the first reference in the index. Diacritical marks have been omitted in the text, but are used in the index. The quotations from the Qur’an are either from Pickthall’s The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, or are translated by the writer of the chapter in which they are found. All quotations from the Qur’an which vary from Pickthall are the writer’s unless specific credit is given; verse references follow the numbering in Pickthall, which sometimes varies slightly from other versions. It should also be noted that Islam is not referred to as Muhammadanism since Muslims do not like to use a word which might imply that they look upon Muhammad as divine or place him above the Qur’an.

The dates are given first according to the Hijrah Era, followed by the date according to the Christian calendar. The Hijrah Era starts with July 15, AD. 622, as established by Caliph Umar. The Muslim year is a lunar year divided into twelve months with the odd months having thirty days and the even having twenty-nine, with 354 days most years, but 355 days eleven years in each cycle of thirty. Since the lunar year begins roughly eleven days earlier each solar year, any one month may eventually fall at any season of the year.

Among the many people who helped in the preparation of this book, I am especially indebted to Professor Resid Ayda of Istanbul, Mr. Hussain Yurdaydin of the Theological Faculty at Ankara, Dr. Aly Ansari of the Ministry of Education in Cairo, and Miss Christine Laurens of the Faculty of Literature of the University of Indonesia.

In the preparation of the three volumes on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam many of the Fellows of The National Council on Religion in Higher Education have given valuable counsel and encouragement. The writing of these books was made possible by grants from The Edward W. Hazen Foundation.

The Oxford University Press has generously given permission to quote from The Legacy of Islam by T. W. Arnold and A. Guillaume. The passages from Pickthall’s classic translation, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, have been used with the permission of George Allen & Unwin Ltd., publishers of the clothbound edition, and of the New American Library, publishers of the paper-backed edition.

Hamilton, New York

H.E. 1377, A.D. 1958

Kenneth W. Morgan